Last week, the team at Wharton in San Francisco invited me to speak at the Entrepreneurs Workshop. I chose the topic of the "Five Forces Shaping the Fundraising Market" and prepared a Mary Meeker style presentation, with a chart and a bullet point on each slide, to illustrate the forces in tension.
There's a cyclicality to fundraising. Certain sectors rise quickly and become competitive while others decline. I've been wondering about the state of the market. First, which sectors are in vogue now in Seed investing and Series A investing? Second, is there a delay between the sectors attracting seed capital and Series A capital? In other words, do seed investors see trends before VCs do?
Jill LePore's New Yorker polemic "The Disruption Machine" attempts to debunk the incredibly popular Innovator's Dilemma, a theory written by HBS professor Clayton Christensen. I've been reading the debate around it with some interest. It's becoming a really interesting conversation but I think the debate is focused on the wrong thing - whether or not these ideas are absolutely correct, even axiomatic. They aren't always true. But that doesn't mean these concepts are useless. Quite the opposite.
Since it was first written in 1982, the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol, the mechanism for sending emails, has remained largely remained unchanged. Today SMTP delivers 70 trillion emails to 5B inboxes each year. Overwhelmed by tens of thousands of emails, most of us can sympathize with Nick Bilton, who said:There is no escape:Email is probably most invasive form of communication yet devised.
Several weeks ago, I wrote a post about the Optimal Contract Value for a SaaS company. I wondered whether startups serving enterprises might be more or less valuable than those serving small-to-medium businesses (SMBs). Interestingly, the data showed there was no optimal customer value to build a publicly traded SaaS company. Having written that post, I began to wonder about other differences between different types of SaaS companies. In particular, do SaaS startups serving SMBs spend more or less than their counterparts in the mid-market and enterprise? And which type of SaaS startup grows the fastest?
Is it better to raise your startup's seed round from only angel investors, or is it better to include a VC or two? Several founders on the precipice of launching their seed fundraising processes have asked me this question. It's a very difficult one to answer hypothetically because there are many different variables to balance. For example, VCs may invest larger sums than angel investors. The imprimatur of a VC's investment in a company might help convince potential customers and recruits. But some might argue their money brings potential signaling risk.
For the past several years, early stage VCs have entered the seed market with vigor. VC"s entry has resulted five different important trends in the past five years
Marketing investments are unlike any other investment a startup. They are the least-tangible, least-measurable investments and that is why they are perceived as the riskiest investments.
Michael Porter created the Five Forces Framework in 1979 in a landmark book called Competitive Strategy. One of those forces, the threat of substitutes has intrigued me for quite a while because in the world of the Internet, the prevailing wisdom on switching costs argues they are trivial on the web. After all, how difficult is it to change from Google search to Bing search? This is the question Google wrestled with during its search share battle in the mid 00s.